All The President’s Men (1976) is political thriller film about the Watergate Scandal, which brought down the presidency of Richard M. Nixon. It was directed by Alan J. Pakula with a screenplay by William Goldman, based on the 1974 non-fiction book of the same name by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists investigating the Watergate story. The film stars Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein.
The 1970s was a great decade for filmmaking, and All The President’s Men is the third work in what came to be known as Pakula’s terrific “paranoia trilogy”; the two films are Klute (1971) and The Parallax View (1974), three of the best films of the decade.
Ben Bradlee was executive editor of the Washington Post, He is played by Jason Robards in the film. In the film, Bradlee asks Woodward and Bernstein:
”You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a shit. You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be. Go on home, get a nice hot bath. Rest up… 15 minutes. Then get your asses back in gear. We’re under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys fuck up again, I’m gonna get mad. Goodnight.”
Redford bought the rights to Woodward and Bernstein’s book in 1974. Bradlee realized that the film was going to be made regardless of whether he approved of it and believed that it made “more sense to try to influence it factually”. He hoped that the film would show that newspapers strive very hard for responsibility.
Robards was always Redford’s choice to play Bradlee. Bradlee recommended George C. Scott for the role, and he was somewhat unimpressed when Robards showed up at the Post offices to develop a feel for the newsroom. Bradlee told Robards:
“Just don’t make me look like an asshole”.
At first, Pakula was worried that Robards could not pull-off Bradlee’s easy elegance and command authority. Karl Malden, Hal Holbrook, Henry Fonda, Richard Widmark, Christopher Plummer, Anthony Quinn, Gene Hackman, Burt Lancaster, and Robert Mitchum and were all seriously considered for the role.
All The President’s Men was a box-office hit and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning four, including one for Robards for playing Bradlee.
Bradlee is profiled in the excellent HBO documentary The Newspaperman: The Life And Times Of Ben Bradlee (2017).